Mosquito species aside from what is widely known to carry Zika virus may also spread the disease, Brazilian researchers discovered. The mosquito carriers are said to be more common and widespread, further complicating what has now become a global problem.
The main mosquito species known to carry Zika virus is Aedes Aegypti, but on Wednesday, scientists announced that they were able to infect another group of mosquitoes in the laboratory.
The Other Mosquito
The other mosquito species being considered to possibly carry Zika virus is Culex quinquefasciatus. Such a species is said to be 20 times more widespread than Aedes Aegypti, at least in Brazil. This then raises concerns that there are far more carriers of the virus in the country.
In the experiment, the scientists administered rabbit blood infected with Zika virus to 200 Culex mosquitoes. As a result, the virus circulated all throughout the bodies of the mosquitoes, even up to its salivary glands. This means that the mosquitoes may transfer the virus to humans through biting.
"We saw an ease of infection and an ease of dissemination of the virus to the salivary glands," says lead author Constancia Ayres from Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, which conducted the experiment.
Culex mosquitoes are known to favor feeding on bird blood. However, the species usually bite humans as well, particularly those living in rural locations.
Culex species commonly rest in high areas like trees, while Aedes aegypti mosquitoes prefer low areas and the indoors. This means that people cannot apply the same mosquito control efforts or insecticides to fight both species off - just one example of how things can get really complicated once Culex is confirmed to carry and spread Zika.
What's more terrifying is the fact that Culex quinquefasciatus can survive winters, unlike Aedes aegypti. Culex can then keep the virus running in its circulation even during cold weather periods.
Enhancing Future Work
More studies are required to confirm if Culex mosquitoes are already carrying ZIka virus in the wild and if the species are really able to transmit the infection.
This work has already begun. The foundation's spokesperson Fabiola Tavares announced on Thursday that the team will start catching Culex mosquitoes near Recife, where the virus is recognized to be present.
The researchers hope to provide answers to this new vague problem, but according to Tavares, it may take about eight months for the scientists to complete further research.
Wider Global Problem
There have been other mosquito species linked to Zika virus. In Africa, scientists found about 20 species of mosquitoes carrying the virus. However, its ability to transmit the virus to humans are not yet clear.
If mosquitoes aside from Aedes aegypti would be confirmed to carry ZIka, it would spark a wider global problem because the disease would be much harder to contain.
Zika outbreak has already been declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization, how much worse can it possibly get?
Although researches are ongoing, there are so much more to know about Zika. For one, the relationship between ZIka virus and microcephaly has not yet been clearly established.
In Brazil, more than 640 babies born with abnormally small head have been related to mothers infected with Zika virus. Researchers are set to investigate more than 4,200 further cases of microcephaly.